Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, and Firefly and Serenity belong to Joss Whedon.
Part of this chapter is quoted from the Serenity film.
A/N: Hark! A crossover! This story is an homage to nonjon's Brown Coat, Green Eyes. That is an excellent story in and of itself, and I definitely recommend it, but I feel like it had some obvious missed potential, which I have tried to rectify here. This story is Epilogue-compliant for Harry Potter, but NOT Cursed Child-compliant. It also follows on from No Power in the 'Verse in…well, the Verse, and I drew on The Verse in Numbers for back-story.
This will not be an actively-updated story for the foreseeable future, but I wanted to put the chapter I had written out there.
It had been a hard century, that was for sure.
It had started out so well. Everyone had celebrated after the defeat of Voldemort, and the magical world was free again. Marriages were celebrated, children were born, grew up, got married, and had children of their own. Life was good for witches and wizards everywhere, and no one, not even the muggle-born ten percent of the population, paid attention to the disaster that was brewing in the muggle world until it was too late.
In 2030, after years of bizarre weather and natural disasters that even wizards couldn't ignore, the news broke: irreversible environmental collapse was coming by the end of the century.
All at once, all of the muggles' worst fears started coming true, and wizards found themselves scrambling to catch up with their paltry knowledge of muggle science just to understand what was happening to their world. The ocean food chain and global biodiversity were collapsing. The oceanic currents stalled, turning the breadbasket of the world cold and dry. Seafloor methane deposits were released by the gigatonne, warming the planet faster than anyone expected. Desertification ran rampant. Droughts, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, and cyclones all hit hard in places where they'd never been seen before. Agricultural yields plummeted.
Wizards, being few in number and supported by magic, were easily capable of sustaining themselves and most of the magical plant and animal species on their own. But as in the World Wars a century earlier, they were not content to sit idly by and watch the world burn. Hermione Granger and others like her led the charge—muggle-borns and half-bloods well versed in the sciences. Whilst still maintaining the Statute of Secrecy, they worked behind the scenes, using magic to advance non-magical science. Hermione herself was brilliant. Just the research she could make public netted her a Nobel Prize, and the world would have spoken her name in the same breath as Newton and Einstein if they could have known the full truth.
For a moment, it seemed like their work had paid off. By 2037, wizards had helped muggles develop terraforming technology that would have been unimaginable a decade earlier. But by 2048, it was clear that it was too late to save Earth. There was no way to get the terraforming to take hold until after the environmental crisis had run its course and the climate stabilised again. Much of the world's population despaired while the world's governments threw themselves into Plan B: evacuate the planet.
It was at that point that many wizards decided to close off their own world and batten down the proverbial hatches. Despite their recent forays into science, most wizards barely understood the meaning of space travel and would never think of actually doing it.
But Harry Potter was not one of those wizards.
Harry Potter, reluctant hero, reluctant leader, and now reluctant motivator to action, had long since despaired of ever living a normal life. It was strange that a man who had been treated worse by muggles than ninety-nine wizards out of a hundred would become one of their biggest champions, but he and his friends, pureblood and muggle-born alike, were people who understood the value of all human life. And moreover, after his decade of living as a muggle as a boy, despite the abuse and neglect, the wizarding world had failed to stamp out the quintessential muggle dream in him of venturing to the stars.
Harry threw his support behind the evacuation effort—both for wizards to continue helping the muggles, and to go along for the ride, saying there was nothing left for them on Earth. About half of the magical world rallied behind him, and that made all the difference.
Merlin, it was hard, though, Harry often thought as he watched the world crumble around him. It got even harder as he saw all the people he cared about die of either age or the rising tide of violence, while he went on, for reasons that he barely understood, still nearly as young and strong as the day Voldemort was killed.
Hermione had been the first of his close friends to go. Despite their best efforts to get her to slow down, she had worked herself to death at the age of ninety-four, barely living long enough to realise her dream of seeing the first interstellar terraforming ships launch toward the 34 Tauri system. In retrospect, Harry thought, it was probably kinder that way to her and Ron, who died of grief shortly thereafter, since just two years later, the Four Horseman started their long, bloody ride.
Faced with near certain-death if they stayed (the most optimistic estimates said Earth could only support half a billion people now), the human race abandoned normal life, stopped bothering about the environment entirely, and tore down its great cities to build ark ships. Within two decades, plague, war, famine, and low birth rates had caused the population to fall to one billion and still dropping fast. And again, wizards were not unaffected. Neville was killed by raiders in the Amazon whilst leading a team to try to collect the last undocumented magical plant species. Luna was lost to one of the many tropical fevers that tore through the once-temperate zones faster than even magical healing could keep up. Harry himself had endured the grief of losing a son and two grandchildren in the peacekeeping forces. And Ginny—his Ginny, who he had made sure had never wanted for anything, succumbed to old age at a hundred and ten. It was the first of September, 2091. Fate had a sick sense of humour.
Now, seven years after losing his wife, Harry's own words came back to him. His friends were all gone, and he had sent what was left of his family away on the first wave of arks. He had intended to stay behind and oversee the rest of the evacuation, but the wizards could handle themselves by now—now that there wasn't much left of humanity outside the ark fleet. He had been right; there was nothing left for him there.
In the end, the one thing he and Hermione had felt really guilty about was that the muggles were forced to travel on generation ships for the hundred and twenty years it would take to reach "The Verse", while with the aid of magic to boost the technology, still hidden behind the Statute of Secrecy, wizards had the option of going on sleeper ships and seeing their new home with their own eyes. It wasn't fair, but not even the great Harry Potter could overturn that law.
Perhaps Rose Granger-Weasley could, if she lived long enough. Once the arks left, there would be half a million wizards and only a few million muggles left on the planet, few enough to maintain a sustainable population out in the wastelands—one that could become majority-magical within a few generations if they played their cards right. Harry really thought Rose had a decent chance of abolishing the Statute of Secrecy in that brave new world if she didn't drive herself to the same fate as her mother.
But as for Harry, after the century he'd had, he was too old and tired for that kind of work—not in his body, but in his soul. In the end, he said goodbye to Rose and departed Earth on the magical sleeper ship Phoenix Fire on the second of May, 2098.
Somewhere in the Black
Three years after the Battle of Serenity Valley
The first thing Harry felt when he awoke was cold.
It took him a minute as his brain figuratively rebooted to realise that was a bad sign on a spaceship. He'd tested the magical stasis pods back on Earth, and they weren't supposed to feel like that coming out of them. He was freezing cold, his limbs were stiff and numb, and he was totally blind. On instinct, he reached for his wand, but his fingers wouldn't obey. All he could do was slap his limp hand across the handle and push as much magic as he could through it, focusing on heat.
And he was on fire.
He let out a scream of agony, although it didn't sound much like a scream—more like a pained whine that sounded like a dying cat. He let go of the magic and panted for breath.
For a minute, all he could do was lie there, but slowly, he came to realise that he must not have been actually on fire because the feeling was returning to his limbs. He also thought he could see a vague light now. He carefully touched his wand again and focused on light instead of heat. Yes, there was definitely a glow. It was pale and blurry, but it was there.
Harry blinked his eyes a few times, and the world became clearer—a little. It looked like he was still in his stasis pod. Worryingly, it also looked like it wasn't functioning and hadn't been for some time. The walls were covered in ice. His wand was covered in ice. (He hoped it wasn't damaged.) His body was covered in ice. It was evident that he had only felt like he was on fire from the Warming Charm because he was severely hypothermic. And he most definitely needed to warm up. Pushing through the pain, he applied the Warming Charm again.
It took several minutes before his body felt like it was at a natural temperature, and he could take better stock of his surroundings: still in the pod, yes, but he'd managed to melt the ice and make himself semi-comfortable. In the warmth, his senses seemed to be sharpened back to normal. A Diagnostic Charm showed nothing seriously wrong with him apart from his usual baseline.
"How the hell am I still alive?" he said—or tried to. It came out as more of a raspy whisper.
If Rose were here, she could have figured out the answer in seconds, but Harry, as gifted as he was, didn't have her Granger-Weasley brains. As he reasoned his way through it, he decided that the power to the stasis pod must have failed at some point en route. But when? Did he still have many years before reaching 34 Tauri? Were they already there? Had the entire ship failed, or was it just him?
Perhaps most importantly, what were the conditions outside the pod?
The air was growing stale. There was no indication at all that the pod was working. He had to get out quickly. Taking into account that the rest of the ship might be not just frozen, but also airless, Harry took precautions. He cast a modified Air Shell Charm around himself—like a Bubblehead Charm, but extending in a nearly skin-tight bubble all over his body. The charm would deliver air at normal pressure, changing to pure oxygen at one quarter pressure in a vacuum to make it easier to maintain. He also kept a Warming Charm continuously fed with magic to keep him from freezing to death.
Alohomora did nothing. The pod was frozen shut. Harry considered his options. A Banishing Charm or Blasting Curse would be too dangerous in such a confined space. A Cutting Charm would take time to do safely. He couldn't Apparate without knowing the conditions outside. Finally, he went with the "low-tech" solution: he cast the Softening Charm at the lid of the pod until he could punch his way out.
Tearing his way out of the stasis pod, Harry looked around and took stock of the situation. The ship was still pressurised, and it even had emergency power. But when he burnt away the frost, one look at the other pods told him the worst had happened: they were dead. All of them. He recoiled and felt bile rising from his stomach. The other pods held nothing but freeze-dried mummies. They must have been without power for years.
Something didn't add up. Emergency power didn't last long enough to keep the ship warm indefinitely, and while the air was bitterly cold, the oxygen wasn't frozen to the deck plates. That meant they'd either made it to 34 Tauri and were in sunlight, or something had knocked the power out for a long time in deep space, and then something equally mysterious turned the heat back on.
He tried accessing a computer terminal and was relieved to find it still functional. Looking at the recent automated logs let him work out roughly what had happened. The ship had made it, but had hit a debris stream from a comet coming into the system, and thanks to that one in a million chance, everyone died. Main power was lost. Propulsion was lost. Emergency power—huh, only kicked back on just now. He didn't know how long it had been out. Even the clocks had failed, and with the total power loss, all of the pods had failed, even with magic. He hadn't really been close to anyone on the Phoenix Fire, but it still hurt. And meanwhile, he had somehow survived.
"Dammit," he rasped, "I thought I was done with that bloody Potter luck."
Harry still wasn't entirely sure how he was still alive. He really, really hoped he wasn't somehow immortal—not after he'd lost nearly everyone he cared about. But his magic had been abnormally powerful ever since he defeated Voldemort. He could only guess that when the power failed while he was in stasis, his magic reached out and protected him. It wouldn't even have been that difficult. The reason flash freezing killed was because of ice crystals forming in the cells. If his magic prevented that somehow, he could have frozen solid and unfrozen once the heat came back on with no ill effects. He remembered Hermione talking about a species of frog that could do that naturally when they were first researching stasis magitech.
To be honest, he wasn't sure if he liked the idea of being immune to freezing to death, either. It felt kind of like cheating. And Merlin knew what else he was immune to.
Well, there was no use standing around and letting himself freeze again. Since he was actually in the 34 Tauri system—"The Verse"—he could at least send out a distress signal and hope someone noticed and picked him up before the emergency power ran out. He stumbled through the Phoenix Fire's frozen stasis pod bays, trying not to think about all the lives that had been lost. As he approached the bridge, though, he heard something that was either very good or very bad. There were voices up there.
"Well, the bad news is, this junker's not going anywhere," the first voice said. It was unfamiliar, and Harry couldn't place the accent—maybe Texas or somewhere thereabouts. It certainly didn't match anyone he knew on the ship. "Drive's completely shot. Hit by a comet, looks like. No way we're gonna get her closer to the Core except by cutting her up for scrap…The good news? We weren't off the mark at all. This is a genu-ine Earth-That-Was colony ship, and most of the artifacts were well-preserved by the cold."
"So you're sayin' were rich?" a second voice said.
"Oh, like hell we're rich."
Harry winced at the sound of cheering. At least four of them, probably not more than six, but there could be more wherever they'd come from. From the way they were talking, it wasn't hard to fill in the blanks. The Phoenix Fire had been adrift for a long time—maybe decades—until one day, a salvage ship stumbled upon it, hoping to make a quick galleon or whatever currency they used around here selling off the now-antique artifacts in the hold. When they came on board, they had restarted the emergency power…and woken him up.
He felt a momentary surge of anger. This was his ship with his people entombed here. But he dropped that line of thought for more practical considerations. The ship was garbage, and these scrap-haulers were probably the only people for a hundred million miles who could help him. He'd have to introduce himself and ask for help. He thought for a minute as he listened, trying to decide how to play it.
Ah, screw it. He had a wand and nothing to lose.
"Hey, ever hear of knocking?" he said as he stepped onto the bridge.
"Whoa!" There was a loud shout, and Harry immediately saw five guns pointed at him. He threw up a strong Shield Charm on general principle and got a good look at the intruders. They were dressed shabbily, and in a style that looked half-Earth Spacer and half-cowboy. Three of them wore long, brown coats that were vaguely reminiscent of the Auror robes he remembered from his youth, and the man who looked to be in charge wore an actual cowboy hat.
They were a mix of Caucasian and Chinese heritage, which wasn't surprising. Most of the people on the Arks had been. Idly, he realised that it was much warmer in this part of the ship. They must have been here at least long enough to warm it up again.
Finally, the man in the cowboy hat spoke: "Damn, is that a personal force field?"
"Um…Maybe," Harry said.
"Captain, somethin's up," the large Chinese man behind Cowboy Hat said. "There's no way this guy got here by ship unless he autoparked it a thousand miles out and turned the heat off."
"Yeah, good point, Chao," the captain agreed. He kept his gun trained on Harry. "Who are you and how did you get here?"
Harry likewise kept his Shield Charm up. "I unfroze when you turned the heat back on," he said.
"Unfroze?" the captain said. "You saying you're from the original crew or something?"
"Yep, that's me. You ever hear of Harry Potter?" He had been known at least a little in the muggle world as one of the organisers of the Arks and as a friend of the great Hermione Granger.
"Uh, no," the captain said.
"Oh…Well, can you tell me what year it is, then?"
"What year? What year do you think it is?"
"It's supposed to be 2218, but I think I've been lost for a while."
"2218? Like hell," Chao said. "This some kind of Alliance sting?"
"What's the Alliance?" Harry said.
All five of them stopped cold. "What's the Alliance?" the captain said. "You stupid or something?" He examined the look on Harry's face, and his eyes widened. "Shoot, you are from the original crew, aren't you? No one could fake bein' that stupid."
"That's impossible!" a woman with the rifle said. "Sleeper ships weren't developed until centuries after the Exodus from Earth-That-Was."
"Secret experimental prototype," Harry said. "And what do you mean, centuries? What year is it?"
"It's 2514, buddy. You're three hundred years late to the party."
"2514? Bloody hell! I knew I'd drifted a while, but…Damn, that means everyone from Earth is long dead, now."
The man on the far end spoke up, saying, "So you are from Earth-That-Was?" He was slight, older than the others, and had a scholarly tone that reminded him just a tiny bit of Albus Dumbledore.
"Earth-That-Was?" Harry said. "What kind of a name is that? I hate hyphenated names. It's always Boy-Who-Lived this and You-Know-Who that. I'm from Earth, full stop. England, to be exact. As far as I know, it's still Earth-That-Is. It's just in bad shape."
All five of the intruders were silent again. It took awhile, but finally, the captain said, "You really believe that don't you? Sorry to tell you this, but Earth's dead, son. Was dead before the Arks even got here. Whatever life you had back there, you're gonna have to start over no matter what year it is."
"Or rather, we'll start it for you," the big man in the back said with a nasty laugh.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry said.
"Those shields don't last long, do they? We've got all day."
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
"Well, you are from Earth-That-Was," the captain said. "You remember what it was like. You know what all the artifacts are, how they work." He got a greedy grin on his face. "That makes you valuable, don't it?"
Harry groaned and rolled his eyes. "And that makes you stupid, don't it?" he mocked him. "Stupefy!"
In seconds, all five raiders were unconscious on the ground. An average wizard would have been at a severe disadvantage going up against five muggles with guns, but Harry hadn't studied wandless magic extensively over the past century for nothing. With that done, it wasn't hard to modify their memories to think he was a paying passenger…Except, after he did that, he smacked himself and tweaked them again. He was a solo spacefarer who had tipped the crew off to the wreck and asked them to help him salvage it. That way, he got his pick of the "artifacts" and an equal share of the sales, which would let him keep all the important and magical stuff and give him enough money to last him a while. The crew should be be a lot nicer to him that way, too. Probably.
He woke them up and asked them to escort him back to their ship for some "equipment". There was some confusion when the other two members of the crew came out to meet them, but he quickly took care of them too, and he was in.
Over the next week, Harry helpfully pointed out all of the useful artifacts on the ship, being careful to secret away anything with still-active magic for himself, and they stripped the Phoenix Fire of everything valuable. In the meantime, he quietly versed himself in the history of the—well—The Verse, so he wouldn't act like he'd been living under a rock for the past four hundred years.
Arks departed on schedule. Good. All contact with Earth lost by 2110, remaining population presumed destroyed—although he personally suspected different. Arrived on schedule at 34 Tauri. First colonies terraformed and occupied by 2225. Rapid advances in terraforming technology and…helioforming? What the hell? Gravity manipulation and nanocompression somehow let them colonise small moons and turn brown dwarfs into mini-protostars. Climate feedback control and solar lensing let them terraform worlds that should have been ice cold or blazing hot. Hermione had thought that kind of stuff was a pipe dream. So had Rose. Bloody hell, if they'd had the technology of 2250 back in 2050, they could have saved Earth. Had anyone ever gone back? Nope, no money for it, nothing to gain from it, as far as anyone knew. He was angry about that at first, but he supposed he couldn't blame them when the trip took a hundred and twenty years each way to start with.
The history of the last century wasn't as rosy. The oldest colonies were already getting mined out and were pushing farther and farther towards the Rim for resources. Same old story. And there was a war. Same old story there, too. Eight years ago, the Central Planets decided to consolidate their rule over the entire Verse. It took them five years, but they did it. Every inhabited world was now at least nominally under the Alliance's rule. The rebels had been called Browncoats and had fared very badly at the end. Some of them were now his new hosts. All in all, they weren't too bad a sort of people to run around with if you got on their good side—you know, except for the wanting to sell him part. But the more he learnt about the Alliance, the more he began to see the Browncoats as disaffected freedom fighters, so after a while, he stopped complaining.
Oh, and there were these psycho cannibal rage monsters called Reavers showing up out of nowhere on the Rim in the past few years. Joy.
Once they made port, the crew sold their haul, and Harry took his share and went on his way. He was bound for the Core. He didn't much like what he saw of the Alliance, but if he was going to find the magical community again, it would be on the Core Worlds.
"It's the Pax. The G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate that WE added to the air processors. It was supposed to calm the population, weed out aggression. Well, it works. The people here stopped fighting. And then they stopped everything else. They stopped going to work, they stopped breeding, talking, eating. There's 30 million people here, and they all just let themselves die."
"Daxiang daozhashi de la duzi!" Harry cursed, echoing the sentiments of many on the street watching the unexpected broadcast. Harry was no stranger to the fact that the Alliance got into some dirty dealings, but until now, he really hadn't thought it was his problem. Yes, they were an oppressive government, and they personally grated on him, but he never saw them as much worse than half the other governments he'd lived under—and that wasn't even counting the mess that was Earth-That-Was during the evacuation. But he hadn't realised until now just how much worse the Alliance was capable of.
This was the real Orwellian stuff—not just oppressing people, not just watching their every move, but trying to make them into obedient servants by taking away their free will. He'd bet his life that the phrase "For the Greater Good" was being uttered in the halls of the Alliance government.
He couldn't go on like this.
Not that he had much reason to. Five years on, his search for the magical community in the Central Planets had turned up jack squat. He'd been all over Londinium and Sihnon, and after that Ariel and Bellerophon, and then skipped right out to Persephone. When that didn't turn up anything, he went back and checked every godforsaken uninhabited moon in the Core and a fair few asteroids besides, thinking the wizards might have set aside a whole world for themselves, hidden from muggles, but there was nothing. On Earth-That-Was, wizards almost always made it pretty easy for a stranded witch or wizard to find a magical government office in a capital city. They couldn't just Fidelius the whole magical community or something crazy like that because they would have to include muggle-borns and visitors somehow. But he'd found nothing—nothing but ancient artifacts cast aside or belonging to families who had long forgotten their significance.
He'd built up a fair collection that way. He used a spell Rose had invented that was basically a magical radar pulse to find any traces of the wizarding world. On Earth-That-Was, it had been a near-useless curiosity with all the magic about. In the Verse? He could find old wands and brooms and skeletons of magical creatures from as far as a mile away (as long as he had the complicated runic receiver it required—and if there were no electrical storms in the area). One of his excursions had even netted him a Pensieve. But there were no wizards—barely even a memory of them, and those memories were usually of someone's grandfather's grandfather performing mere parlour tricks that he could never confirm as the real deal. After five years of fruitless searching, his money was running low. He was starting to have to do odd jobs just to keep up.
And now, Miranda.
It wasn't until a week later that he made the connection to the Tams.
The one credible bit of evidence for magic surviving in the Verse to the present day were the "Readers"—a mysterious sort of combination Seer and Legilimens that were highly sought after by the Alliance at the highest, most secretive levels. Many people didn't even believe Readers existed, but then, a lot of people in the Core didn't believe in the Reavers, either.
River Tam was said to be a Reader, and even more interestingly, she had escaped government custody from a classified facility, or so said the Alliance database he'd hacked into. Harry had followed the Tams' story from a distance since shortly after they vanished from custody. He'd even considered going to look for them himself, but they were surely far in the Rim by the time he'd heard about it, there were easier targets for his search in the Central Planets.
One thing got to him, though: the more he looked, the more it seemed as if the Tams were leaving a trail of blood in their wake. A few seemingly-unrelated assassinations on Regina, an entire police department on Ariel wiped out in an apparent terrorist attack, some mysterious deaths on Whitefall—nothing too strange, but it all looked a little fishy, and after so many years as an Auror, his instincts were very good.
He didn't make the connection until after Miranda, though. It took some more hacking and digging, but he eventually concluded that River Tam had Read the secret of Miranda from some government official's mind, and they wanted so badly to cover it up that they went out and killed dozens of their own people whom they thought she might have told something incriminating.
Well, that was it. He was done with the Alliance, and if the wizarding community was smart, they'd feel the same way. With any luck, they had and moved the Rim ages ago. And even if they hadn't, he had to admit the Tams were his best lead right now. He'd be setting himself against the Alliance going after them, but he was sure he'd wind up on the wrong side of them sooner or later. He'd seen the pattern too many times. The Alliance would keep trying to bring the people to heel for as long as—let's just say, as long as it takes for the message to—sink in.
"Well, then," Harry said to himself as he transfigured his coat from black to brown, "I aim to misbehave."